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3 min read

What makes therapy "trauma-focused"?

group of chairs in a therapy session room illustration

Key Takeaways:

  • Trauma-focused therapy uses a lot of the same methods as "traditional" talk therapy, but with an emphasis on how a traumatic event can shape a person's psychology.
  • Therapists will tweak their processes to an individuals specific case.
  • Examples of trauma-focused therapy include trauma-focused CBT and exposure therapy.

Mental health conditions can present due to many different factors. Just like physical conditions or injuries, mental health disorders can happen as a result of genetics, lifestyle changes, or trauma.

Licensed therapists use evidence-based therapy to treat mental health conditions. But just like physicians, they have to tweak their methodology depending on the assumed cause of the condition.

Someone who had a heart attack because of obesity and someone who has a genetic heart condition both require attention to their hearts, but the treatment won't be exactly the same.

In the same way, someone who has a genetic predisposition to depression and someone who just experienced trauma that led to depression both require therapy, but the session won't be identical.

Therapists solve for this by slightly changing their methodologies to more appropriately address their patients' specific cases. Enter: trauma-focused therapy.

Trauma-Focused Therapy on This Page:

What is trauma-focused therapy?

Who is trauma-focused therapy for?

Trauma-Focused Therapy for Non-PTSD Conditions

What is trauma-focused therapy?

Trauma-focused therapy is a form of evidence-based talk therapy or psychotherapy that acknowledges trauma's role in mental health.

Many forms of academically studied and evidence-based therapy are built on the same foundation: cognitive therapy.

On top of the foundation are things like cognitive behavioral therapy and cognitive processing therapy.

Build on top of those are therapies like emotionally focused therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy - these methods are offshoots of CBT.

Within this same category of offshoots of CBT is trauma-focused therapy, also referred to as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (which can thankfully be shortened to TF-CBT) is a form of CBT that is used most often for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

PTSD is caused by a traumatic event (or a series of them.) That event, for many sessions, will need to be front and center, so that it can be properly processed.

That can't happen without some special care and attention to the patient's response to that trauma. That's what trauma-focused therapy is for.

Who is trauma-focused therapy for?

Trauma-focused therapy was initially developed for child and adolescent survivors of sexual abuse.

Quickly, however, experts discovered that it can be applied both to children who have survived other forms of trauma, as well as to adults as well, with some tweaks.

Trauma-Focused Therapy for Children

For children, trauma-focused therapy can be a very effective tool for reducing the symptoms of PTSD.

Typically, both the parent and the child will attend sessions - sometimes individually and sometimes together. Of course, this is not the case if the child's trauma is related to abuse by a parent.

Sessions, of which there will be 12 to 18 in total, will center on interrupting negative and damaging thought patterns about the traumatic event, as well as about everyday life and self.

This is done with respect to the context of the trauma. For example, imagine a child who now gets panic attacks on trains because they witnessed a train wreck. Their therapist might speak with them about where their mind goes when they walk onto the train, or be instructed on how they can reduce the amount of fear they feel using rational thought.

The methods by which this process happens are usually discussion and play, as well as quality family time.

For parents, therapy in this situation will focus on reducing stress, ensuring they are processing their child's trauma healthily, and teaching coping skills. Parents are often understandably emotional when their child suffers abuse or trauma.

If that emotion or anger goes unbridled, it can cause harm to both the parents and their child's progress.

Trauma-Focused Therapy for Adults

Trauma-focused therapy for adults works in much the same way as for children, but with discussion as the primary method of delivery.

It functions similarly to standard cognitive therapy, but gain with an emphasis on the patient's trauma and how they process it.

Trauma-Focused Therapy for Non-PTSD Conditions

Trauma-focused therapy can also be used for patients who do not have symptoms of PTSD per se, but who do have other mental health conditions that relate to a traumatic series of events.

For example, if a patient has depression and generally understands that it relates to, say, partner infidelity, TF-CBT can help them overcome their symptoms by processing that trauma in a professional environment.

Trauma-Focused Therapy in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Trauma-focused therapy is an effective way to combat the symptoms of PTSD and other mental health conditions, but only if administered by a licensed professional.

The team here at Williamsburg Therapy Group strives to be the best possible source for TF-CBT and other treatments for residents in Austin.

If you suspect your mental health symptoms are the result of trauma, please give us a call to get matched with one of our doctoral-level therapist. Feeling better may be closer than you think.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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